Issue 174, page 4

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Sez You...

From George Clark:

In the absence of further evidence, one wonders if mursher and merger may be from the same root [re murder of crows].

Well, merge comes from Latin mergere "to dip, plunge". Its first recorded use was in 1636 while mursher dates from 1450, so a connection does not seem likely.

From Dan Schechner:

In Issue 172 you discussed the derivation of Caesar. I was reminded that in high school Latin class, we were taught that the pronunciation was not See' zer but Khy' sar. Immediately, the link to both the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar became obvious.

Of course!

From Brad Daniels:

I'm not sure how best to research this one, but I had always been under the impression that the loop in question was the commmand and control loop, a term that became known to the general populace in the 1960s in the context of the NASA space program. Those not in the command and control loop did not have access to all the information and could not make command decisions.

It certainly could have influenced the spread of the phrase into every-day use.

From David de Jongh:

According to, the isinglas (misspelled on their site) used in the windows of cars and presumably surreys is the gelatinous one. It struck me as strange that those on the surrey should "roll right down", as the other isinglass (i.e. mica) is very brittle, and would surely fragment if rolled.

"Later, in the late 1800s, lake sturgeon were exploited for their eggs (to make caviar), and for the gelatin from the lining of the gas bladder which was used in making isinglass windows. "

Mica is indeed brittle.  Good sleuthing, David!  This pertains to a discussion in Sez You, Issue 164.

From Matt Clark:

My dictionary claims to not know the origin of the word ofay, a term used by a black person about a white person. Logic dictates that it is pigeon english for "foe", as in Enemy.

I have always heard that ofay means "foe" in Pig Latin, not pidgin English.


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From Cooper Vertz:

You are probably done with the inoculation vs. vaccination debate, but here's a tidbit that was not mentioned last week. Vaccinia is actually the Latin name of cowpox, which is used in the smallpox vaccine.

American Heritage says the origin is: New Latin vaccinia, from Latin vaccinus, of cows!

NEW YORK (Dow Jones) - A new report on millions of smallpox vaccinations given in the 1960's confirms that there is a small but significant risk that newly vaccinated people can make others seriously ill by infecting them with vaccinia, the virus used in the vaccine, The New York Times reported in its Wednesday editions.  Scientists said the findings were reassuring, since the risk was so small a few cases for every 100,000 vaccinations but cautioned that the risk today might be higher than in the past, because more people have disorders of the skin or immune system that predispose them to adverse effects from the vaccine or close contact with those who have been vaccinated.  The Times reported that the risk to those who are unvaccinated but are in contact with those who are occurs because vaccinia, a relative of smallpox, is shed from the vaccination site for about three weeks and can make some people very sick. But the degree of risk to unvaccinated people has not been clear. 

Cows are indeed at the heart of the etymology of vaccine!


Or read last week's issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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Last Updated 10/21/02 09:24 AM